Intro : Reacting over the US-Iran Nuclear deal, PM Tony Abbott gave mild reaction stating that the deal will stop Iran from pursuing its nuclear arms programme.
The most discussed Iran sanctions and nuclear embargo deal was finally signed after 18 days of marathon discussions with frequent ups and downs the course. It was at the best a compromise solution to the bilateral impasse, with the US and the group of five nation’s virtual give in to the terms of Teheran. The deal puts restrictions on Iran’s nuclear ambitions for the period of just a decade. The country ruled by hardcore muslim clergies which suppressed dissent of the common citizens to the hardships all the while during the period of imposition of sanctions and continued to negotiate even after the due date, has ultimately broken the tough stand earlier taken by the US President.
Iran had been defeated in the battle of sanctions because Iranian assets to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars in US banks were frozen and trade with other countries was restricted. It won the war out-manoeuvring the great US Satan making it bend to its terms. It is likely to set another precedence as the US senator Marco Rubio of Florida stated, ‘This agreement shows other rogue states that wish to go nuclear that can obfuscate, cheat, and lie for a decade, and eventually the United State will tire and drop the key demands.” Why in future, other major rogue state i.e. Pakistan has done it. It has become a nuclear power and continues to fleece the US. This agreement automatically confers the status of threshold nuclear power on Iran. The conditions of the deal are most flimsy. The most important condition where the US gave in is to do away with surprise check of the nuclear and military establishments. These can be undertaken only after the due notice. It will take minimum 24 days before the observers can enter the facility, the time enough to whitewash the secret operations. It has agreed to reduce the uranium stock by 98 per cent which it can build once the decade is over. Iran till last year was known to be on an illicit shopping spree for it plutonium plant and “dual-use’ spare parts nuclear warheads. It has not hidden its ambition to bring Israel within its missile range. If Iran is found to violet the deal conditions, the sanctions can be reimposed. However it will take marathon efforts and long time to reach the decision for reimposition. Period of a decade or two is not a long period for any country, especially like Iran which has potential to be a regional power. After the deal was signed on July 14, 2015 in Vienna, President Obama was candid enough to call this deal as an agreement built on verification and not on trust. The bill will go to the senate for discussion for 60 days. Obama has staked his prestige for passing the bill in the Senate. In the event of rejection of the bill, he will use his veto powers. It only shows that President himself is not sure of the support from colleagues within the senate. The next Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has expressed her reservations over the possible compliance to the conditions by Iran.
Weakness in the US policy
There are three main reasons for the US to accede to tough stand taken by Iran. In a year and a few months Obama will retire. Many have expressed the view that the legacy factor counted for the President for setting his foot down on the question of signing this treaty. This is the most talked about motivation for Obama taking firm stand. After all, President Ford is known for the Camp David accord; President Nixon for the China breakthrough. President Obama desires to see his name to be inscribed as the President.
Obama feels that Iranians deploying ground forces will help to defeat ISIS without the loss of American manpower. After the Arab state conglomerate failed to curb the advances of ISIS the only alternative left to US and coalition is to effectively rope in Iran to fight on the ground. Even though it is impoverished over decades of restrictions, Iran proved that it can effectively thwart ISIS advance. After lifting of sanctions, release of funds and acquisition of conventional arms, Iran can effectively deploy manpower Sunni ISIS and destroy it. It is this expediency that forced Obama to set his foot down in favour of the accord.
Over the last two years since US opened dialogue with Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni States were alerted. Saudi Arabia has been at loggerheads with US on the questions of Shia Iran dialogue and pricing of the crude. Of late, prices of the crude dropped down never as before. After the successful shale oil recovery and initial euphoria of low price fuel availability, there was glut in oil market. But that stage is passed. Shale oil reserves are declining. Many companies which invested heavily in shale oil fields are posting loss. Australian company BHP which invested billions of dollars is expected to recognise a $US 2.8 bn pre-tax ($US2 bn after tax) impairment on its shell oil business. It appears that BHP has decided not to retain all of its acreage of shale field and forfeit some. US companies are faring no better. In the event of Iran entering the oil market, as Alan Kohler, expert on the topic pointed out, “The broader effects of the re-entry of Iran into world economy could swamp the specific impact on the increase in production on the oil market”. American hunger and hankering for oil is well-known. With some Middle-Eastern sources depleting, Iran can make up for the present oil production deficit. It will require a span of six to eight months to bring back the oil fields to the level of production. Iran will need spares and additional armament capacity to arm against the ISIS. If Iran agrees to the terms of US, it can help to oust Teheran’s close alley President Bashar al-Assad from Syria. Americans can reap the arms sale on large scale. It is guessed that over the period of last two years, when Obama opened window toward Iran, Americans have estimated support for the American culture and food among the Iranian youth. A survey Indicates that 64 per cent youth below 25 years were for cooperation with US. It was a different Iran at the time of Ayatollah Khameneiin 1980s. The teens and youth accepted lockets of keys to heaven from Ayatollah and rolled themselves on the battle field to clear mines for the army to advance. I have personally verified this fact from an Iranian captain who left in disgust and took asylum in US. Things have changed today after the advent of internet. As Benoit Fucan reports, Iranian society is divided over the deal and large number of population is in favour of deal and lifting of sanctions. The Iranian people have suffered. They have been deprived of both the essential commodities and medicinal supplies. These have been in short supply. Muslim clergies ruthlessly suppressed dissent and is likely to lose its grip very soon. The common Iranian citizens were jubilant on signing of the deal. They celebrated it congratulating Foreign Minister Mohammad Javed Zarif. They are likely to go against Mullahdome in the event of breach of deal and reimposition of sanctions. That too is one of the considerations in letting the tight rope to be loosened. Whether this will happen is a big question mark.
Iran in turn has nothing to lose. On the contrary it will the financial windfall for Iran. Its frozen accounts will be opened. It can draw cash to the tune of hundreds of $bn. It can put in market the accumulated crude for net cash collection. The multinationals like oil giant Chevron, General Electric, Cisco etc. too are exploring the business opportunities there. Iran can arm itself and reset it armament for the traditional warfare. On the west it will be ISIS and on the East the Afghan warlords who will have freehand after US troops leave Afghanistan. Shia Iran with hegemonistic ambitions will not let Sunni Pakistan to be one up there. Iran is likely to foment trouble in Pakistan with active connivance from US and group of five as the rogue state has become a liability. With ISIS spreading its tentacles in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iran can be a major deterrent for Sunni global ambition for Caliphate. At the same time possibility of Iran funding the proxies like Hezbollah and other splinter groups in Yemen etc. against Sunni states also cannot be overlooked.
While the Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that the world has breathed sigh of relief, it was expected that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu will cry foul over the deal. For him nuclear Iran is an existential threat. Obama with non-white descent does not buy the idea of supporting Israel at any cost. For him, both Israel and Saudi Arabia stand on par. In Australia response to the deal is lukewarm. PM Tony Abbott gave mild reaction stating that it will stop Iran from pursuing its nuclear arms programme. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expressed doubts about inspections and transparency at every step of implementation and that Australian Government will examine the deal. Labor MP Michael Danby referring to the nuclear development in secrecy by Iran expressed doubts about verifying and enforcing the agreement. “The Age”, one of the widely circulated daily expressed positive hope in the editorial stating that with the “Iran deal: the world becomes a safer place”. Rodger Shanahan has taken optimistic line (The Age, July 16) pointing that legal backgrounds of President Rouhani and Obama helped to clinch the deal. He writes that Iran wisely dissociated the broader regional issues with Arab states from the nuclear negotiations and that there exists a place for determined and pragmatic diplomacy.
For Australia, China with global ambition is a pain in neck. The negative sentiments are growing in Australia against China. Brian Spegele in “The Australian” (July 16 , 2015) expressed, “The nuclear deal is likely to provide big benefits to one of its brokers – China – giving Beijing greater room to ramp up Iranian imports as part of global buying binge. ….For China, the deal also promises strategic benefits. Beijing sees Iran as a potentially stable partner in the Middle East, allowing China to exert greater sway in the region even as it works with US regional partners like Saudi Arabia. Greg Sheridan, the foreign editor of ‘The Australian’ has criticised the deal pointing to unreliability of Iran in all its previous dealings. In order to break the present stalemate in ISIS and Iraq, Americans are trying to make friends with another terrorist oriented country. He comments, ‘The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.” A very scathing comment comes from Bret Stephens (The Australian , July 16). He writes, ‘Americans are lucky people…so lucky that Bismarck supposedly once said, “There is a special providence for drunkards, fools and United States of America.” May be we’ll get lucky again…Or may be we won’t be lucky. May be there is special providence for the nations drunk on hope, led by fools.” Well, many of us would agree with Bret.
Dr Pramod Pathak (The writer is a scholar of comparative religious studies and currently on his visit to Australia)